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William Vanderburgh

I'd add one thing to Marcus's thoughtful reply, which is that starting the weaning doesn't need to wait until after you defend. Start forming relationships with people at other institutions while you are still a grad student. This can be asking questions via email, requesting them to read a draft, etc. Try to get to some conferences and meet people in person. Don't make encounters transactional, make them relational. (Philosophers are a weird bunch, some of these attempts will fail.) I think you'd have most luck with more junior folks (including fellow grad students and post-docs) rather than more senior/famous people--the famous folks already have full dance cards and are less likely to be incentivized to give you their time.

Having these connections will be valuable in your first post-PhD job, too, since most of the time the department that hires you will be full of people already busy with their own work and lives and it can be quite lonely (especially if you had a rich community in grad school).


I think that's all pretty much right.

Part of grad school is building a network of peers at different stages of their careers whom you can turn to for help (both from your home department, but also through conferencing). When you graduate, IMO these are your main helpers.

You can (and should!) also use conferences to get that kind of help from the audience (and, again, to start building your professional relationships).

I also think your main (but not exclusive!) publication focus after defending should be your dissertation. It's already been through multiple rounds of peer review, and certified good! It'll take some work to get it ship-shape for publication, but most of that work is already done, whereas for a new paper, you'd have to start from scratch.

For my own part, I got a *huge* boost of confidence from defending successfully that's never gone away. It's ebbed a bit at times, but defending just set my baseline confidence *a lot* higher. It took me a little while to get the hang of publishing, but once I had a few under my belt (including dissertation papers), I developed a pretty much unshakeable confidence. I still get a lot of rejections, and for perfectly good reasons. But now I know for sure that I have good ideas and can get them published in good venues, so there's a lot less at stake for me. I don't feel like I have to prove my chops to anyone any more. (All I have to do is attract sympathetic readers!)

(FWIW, conferencing did something similar for me, too. I've done *a lot* of it--much less since defending, however!--and there came a point where I knew I could get most of my papers accepted to a conference, and that I wouldn't embarrass myself in the presentation and Q&A. That was a huge breakthrough, and it helped me to stop taking rejections personally.)

Heather Wallace

There is a growing trend for academic authors to work with developmental editors. (Full disclosure: I do this type of work, and I have a growing client base among professional philosophers.)

An editor specializes in making your work more intelligible and can give your work the sustained, detailed attention that colleagues can't always afford to give it. Developmental editors engage with your writing, but also with your ideas, your argument, and the structure of your paper. Each author has individualized needs, but some of the ways I've helped authors include: help them identify which ideas belong in this particular paper and which should go somewhere else; help them see missing steps in the argument, or potential connections to other ideas; help them determine the most effective organization of their ideas to reach non-specialist readers; help them identify the core thesis or narrative (and the progression of chapters) in a book manuscript.

It's definitely a different dynamic to turn to a paid professional for this kind of feedback, but it is a viable way to get very personalized support for your work (and it is an option for one way to use research funds).

I love the quote about the voices in your head: and I think many scholars have never heard the voice of their reader as they work through their papers. That is how I think about the job of editing--making that conversation between reader and writer explicit.

Assistant Professor

I like two points Michel made: that conferencing and defending can help build confidence.

To me a benefit of conferencing is learning how to think on your feet - or rather to demonstrate to yourself that you know your topic well enough to think on your feet in response to whatever questions come your way. I realize this is its on unique skill, and one that not everyone enjoys or wants to cultivate in our discipline. But finding your own style to respond to others in ways that demonstrate your knowledge and abilities is really helpful.

My dissertation chair told me after my defense that he asked me hard questions during the defense to demonstrate to the other committee members that I am their peer in my ability to answer those tough questions. Whether it worked on how they see me, telling me that illustrated that HE viewed me as a peer and expert, and I thought that was such a great defense present.

Unlike Michel, though, I think working on new projects that haven't had the eyes and comments of other mentors on them can actually be really helpful to feel free from the guidance and expectations of others - especially if those things get published!

walking the first step

This is a wonderful post. Fresh out of graduate school into the tenure clock, I have no clue as for how much I can continue relying on my old advisers. Because I have relied a lot on feedback during graduate school (though I always had my own philosophical ideas and projects), this is a radically new experience. For the record, I haven't had anything independently written with zero feedback pre-referee published yet, so we will see...! Ultimately, I find independence fun and satisfying (despite no publication yet).

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